Social Consumption Task Force Finalizing Recommendations for Council

Social Consumption Task Force Finalizing Recommendations for Council
Brandon Marshall
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The last meeting of the Social Consumption Area Task Force included plenty of analogies from members trying to explain the compromises they have had to make.

"In life, just like in marriage, you don't always get your way all the time," said Margie Valdez, who represents powerful neighborhood lobbying group Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, at the September 13 meeting.

The task force has met all year to smooth the edges of Initiative 300, which created a pilot program that lets businesses apply for a license to allow adult marijuana consumption in certain areas. Its chairwoman, Councilwoman Kendra Black, will present the task force's final recommendations for how to better enforce the initiative to Denver City Council in November.

Since voters approved I-300 in November 2016, only two businesses have been given social consumption permits: Vape and Play, which is set to open this year, and the Coffee Joint, which opened in mid-March. Other applicants that haven't been as lucky argue that the city's regulations make it nearly impossible to find a suitable location for a social consumption business, which must be 1,000 feet from rehabilitation centers, schools, city-owned rec centers and daycares (and when the city says 1,000 feet, it means 1,000 feet). The task force's research has shown that daycares are the largest impediment to getting a license because there are so many of them all over Denver.

At today's meeting, the task force agreed to send two competing recommendations to Denver City Council. The "bold" suggestion, as it was called, stays true to I-300's language, which didn't explicitly lay out the 1,000-foot setback requirement added by the Department of Excise and Licenses last year. A compromise suggestion, proposed by Councilman Jolon Clark, would maintain the 1,000-foot setbacks but exempt applicants who are supported, by way of a "non-opposition" letter, by a daycare, rehab, school or rec center that falls within 1,000 feet of the potential social consumption business. (The task force is still mulling over a possible scenario involving conflicting viewpoints from businesses near an applicant's desired space.)

"The government shouldn't need to protect someone who doesn't need protecting," Clark said after the meeting.

The compromise wasn't totally accepted by everyone on the task force. Logan Goolsby, compliance director for Euflora, argued that it still places too much of a burden on applicants.

"They have to reach out to multiple organizations," he said at the meeting. "It places a chilling effect on businesses. That would place more of a burden on [them]."

Task force members also discussed the will of voters and the fact that I-300 is broader in its language than the regulations rolled out by the city. But "the voters also approved TABOR," Clark said. "The voters don't always get it right."

The task force could also move forward with a proposal to make it easier for dispensaries to divvy up their space in order to create a social consumption area, and to make the application process for any marijuana-related event as streamlined as getting a liquor license.

Black will consider more comments from task-force members before drafting the final recommendations. The public is also invited to send comments to socialconsumptiontf@denvergov.org.

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